Faust (Will Badgett) studies Mephistopheles (David Greenspan)
Goethe's back, and Faust is with him.
Ok, they never really left, except that some of us thought we could ignore them now. David Herskovits, Douglas Langworthy and Target Margin Theater are going to make that very difficult for some time.
They have taken upon themselves the enormous task of translating and staging the complete text of Goethe's iconic play, "Faust", the entire project to be spread over at least several years time.
This week we saw the product of their initial engagement with the material, a dramatization of the first part of the first part, which they have dubbed, "These Very Serious Jokes". The title comes from a reference Goethe himself once made to his magnificent 12,000 line verse-play. Target Margin begins with a completely faithful revival of the first 2,600 lines, in addition to the inclusion of the author's dedicatory poem and two introductory scenes.
Both of us were a bit rusty on "Faust" [actually Barry was rusty, I was literately virginal] and we going into the show we welcomed the opportunity of seeing an intimate modern representation of one of the great monuments in European culture. Even with my experience of TMT's wonderful production history I hadn't expected that we would be in for so much more than brilliant entertainment and a provocative staging.
It was hilarious, seriously. And very very smart. Some of that is Goethe, but if I think I'm already able to talk [back?] to Faust, Mephistophes, and even The Lord, although the story has barely begun, I'll credit the company. Anyone who can take advantage of this great theatrical opportunity is in for a wonderful ride. David and the company plan eventully to present their sections of the play as an integrated piece, but in the meantime we will have the great pleasure of participating in a new creation as we see the parts follow each other to their conclusion.
I hurried home Tuesday night to check our copies of the "Faust" printed text. Surely not every bit of what we heard was Goethe? But it was. We were both astounded. The translation is that magnificent. On the other hand, not everything we saw was in the original. Target Margin's contemporary inventions in twisted genious, together with Doug Langwothy's translation, is what makes the story our own, right now.
But you're going to have to hurry, since this section's run ends next Sunday. The location is the tiny downstairs theatre at HERE Arts center, 145 6th Avenue, near Spring. The time is 7pm on Friday and 2pm and 7pm on Saturday. On Sunday there is another performance at 7pm and from Tuesday, Jan 27, until Saturday, Jan 31, the shows will begin at 8:30 pm. There will be matinees on Saturday, Jan 31 and Sun, Feb 1, at 4pm.
The number to call is 718-398-3095.
* mumbled by one of the cast members while David Herkovits was delivering his prefatory notes in front of the audience
NOTE Something else that remains from Goethe's text is Auerbach's Keller. It's a great scene in the play, and its environment is familiar to anyone who's spent time in a tavern. The Keller too checks out perfectly. The real Auerbach's was founded in 1525, so it was already a couple of centuries old when Goethe immortalized it. It remains a tavern in Leipzig today more than two centuries later, having survived, like the legend of Faust itself, major plagues, the Reformation, the Religious Wars, the Peasant Rebellion, the 30 Years War, Napoleon's armies, the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars.
[image from Lighting Dimensions]